If you read the sarcasm in that title, congrats- gold star for you! If not, come on- you should have had enough coffee by now, get it together. I exist to do a very small handful of things: Love my family, be the best version of myself that I can be for them, for my business, and for ME, and finally- to level with you lovely humans.
You see, the thing is-
STARTING A BUSINESS IS FUCKING HARD!!!
Go ahead and read that again, take a breath, and read it again. Hell, read it until you see it when you close your eyes. Read it until it haunts you in your dreams. Read it until you mistakenly say it when you’re trying to explain why your kid called another kid a “washed up motherfucker” at daycare and their teacher is staring at you like you’re a complete maniac (that didn’t actually happen to me, it just struck me as funny, I SWEAR!).
We started The Ghost Generation back in August 2019 as a blog. We had no idea what would come of it, and even though we started to get a few eyes on us, and i got to do some rad stuff with it, once COVID become our new reality our readership pretty much disappeared. Our social media following stagnated, and everything kind of screeched to a halt. A few months of frustration, a handful of fateful coincidences, and a little determination later and we decided to take a pretty big leap and transition into a jewelry company.
We’re pretty fucking good at it too, and that’s not bragging- it’s just a dash of self-confidence, which believe me when I say I’ve EARNED. I spent WAY too much of my life beating myself down, kicking myself in the teeth, and telling myself “you’re not good enough for anything or anyone”, now that I’ve found my voice and a little self-esteem I don’t plan on looking back. Fuck THAT.
Not hating yourself is rad.
Here’s the deal though- starting a business is NOT easy. In fact, a lot of it isn’t particularly fun either. Really, a whole shitload of it is even pretty demoralizing and downright terrifying. But , you know what? It’s also one of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and wonderful things I’ve ever done. How does all that bad AND all that good go together? Fucking precariously, that’s how! See, I’ve always been driven to do my own thing. It took me until I was 40 to figure out what it would be, and I’d have LOVED it to come together sooner, but that doesn’t matter. My point is, I’ve always wanted to do this, but it’s 100% not for everyone. Not by a long shot. Not by 1,000,000 fucking light years. It’s scary, it beats the shit out of you, and you REALLY gotta want it if you’re gonna see it through.
What the fuck makes ME an expert on the subject? Nothing! Not one fucking thing. I don’t know shit and I’m not afraid to say so. Every single day is a learning experience from sunrise to sunset, and understanding that is the only way I keep myself sane half the time. If humility isn’t your thing, you’re gonna want to MAKE it your thing cause if there’s one thing being a fledgling business owner will show you it’s that, as far as the world at large is concerned- you ain’t SHIT. But that’s OK, you don’t need to worry about that right now. You just need to focus on learning your craft, building your following, and making sure you learn all the un-fun stuff too. You’ll be glad you did, I PROMISE.
I’m not gonna sit here and preach to you like I’m fuckin’ Mark Cuban or some shit, I’m not that guy and I don’t want to be either. I’m here because I’ve learned a few things since we got this rolling, and I feel like they’re IMPORTANT things that nobody is really telling anyone about and that’s a bummer. I did a metric ton of research leading up to the launch of our shop, and you should too, but maybe I can help you head in the right direction and save you at least a fraction of the headaches I endured while trying to figure all this shit out on my own.
BTW, NOBODY is an expert, at much of anything. Some people are luckier than others but EVERYONE makes mistakes and everyone has SOMETHING to learn.
There’s another one to read over and over again until it sinks in. Don’t get me twisted though, plenty of people ARE vastly more experienced than others, some people are a LOT luckier than others, and some people just fucking WIN more than others. To me though, that doesn’t make anyone an “expert”. And I think that anyone calling themselves an expert oughtta fucking stop. It’s ego-based and misses the point of all this. We SHOULD be constantly learning. We SHOULD be making mistakes to learn from. We SHOULD be humble and treat others with love and respect and kindness.
That’s especially important when it comes to people like me, who are just starting out and a little help from a kind and knowledgeable person is HUGE. Plenty of people choose to be dicks and not help their fellow man, but that’ll never be me.
Anywho, I feel like I’m getting off track. I just have a few things I’ve learned that I felt it would be important to share with you, in case you’re trying to start your OWN business, thinking about it, whatever the case may be. This is by no means in any sort of order, and this is by NO means an exhaustive or definitive piece of business literature. It’s just a dude sharing his limited experience in the hopes that it might help someone else out a little. Let’s go!
1) BE FUCKING ORGANIZED
The pics below are of my workspace. You’ll notice that it’s pretty meticulously organized, and the crazy thing is- I keep it that way. Sure, it gets disheveled from time to time, and there are times when I don’t feel like cleaning/moving shit around- but since I KEEP it tight I don’t have to do that shit as much. All my fillers/materials are closeby, organized by color (I should also mention I’m a huge dork), and easy to get to at any time.
I apply this same principle to everything I do related to the business. The finances, the way I structure my days (most of the time), all of it. Being uber-organized means there’s less room for confusion, which causes mistakes. I know, organization isn’t the sexiest topic or the most fun, but I promise you this- you’re gonna want to think about little bullshit like organization as LITTLE as possible so your already-overloaded brain can focus on getting shit done. Getting shit done is your absolute TOP priority, and that doesn’t mean it has to be big moves, it’s just handling what needs to be done- even the small stuff like this.
2)Make friends with humility & disappointment- they’re gonna be hanging around for a while.
It’s true, those two things are like the shitty, drunk-ass houseguest who just won’t take a hint at the end of the night. They’re hitting on your sister-in-law, making people visibly uncomfortable, and you’re frankly pretty tired of their shit. In this scenario though, the fuckers move in and put their feet all over your coffee table. You’re just gonna have to adjust to their presence, steel your nerves, and get through it.
Case in point- social media. My wife and I had previously been COMPLETELY off social media for the better part of 6 years. Most people I knew didn’t give enough of a shit to keep tabs on me in real life, and we were pretty much ghosts. Shit, that’s even part of the reason we’re called The Ghost Generation, so there you go. Social media is a big part of being a business owner though, especially when you’re a small & fledgling operation like us. You can’t afford a social media manager, or a marketing director, and an intern would just get on your nerves and nobody wants to hang around my house all day anyway.
So, you gotta do it yourself. In my case though, I’m a 40 year-old, married man with kids. The people responsible for all the trending topics, all the “likes”, and all that jazz don’t particularly give a shit about me. I get it, it’s the way of the world. Not tooting our own proverbial horns here, but we make rad shit. We make PRETTY shit, and we’re pretty funny too if I may be so bold. You wanna know how many likes my last handful of posts got? Negligible. Twitter? I don’t even think most of our own FOLLOWERS give a shit about what we’re doing. It’s a fucked up formula, and truth be told it’s tough to get ahead, or get noticed, if you don’t dedicate your entire life to tweeting all day, Instagramming your every move, or live-streaming every piss you take.
Here’s the thing though- I don’t fucking care. Well, I DO care, but in the interest of my mental health and happiness I’ve chosen to take it all with a very large grain of salt. I know who I am and I know what we’re doing, and I truly believe that slow and steady will eventually win the race. Maybe it won’t, who knows. All I know is this- if I stress myself out wondering why the “likes” aren’t pouring in, why nobody is hanging on our every word, or why every day feels like a constant struggle to just get noticed, I’ll go the fuck insane. We’ve enabled a culture where everything is disposable, where you have to be on like a hundred platforms just to survive, and where every move you make feels like begging for attention. I don’t happen to believe that’s a good thing, but the reality is that you gotta play the fucking game. My suggestion? It’s the old adage “act as if”. You might not be the biggest thing since sliced bread or yoga pants yet, but make everything you put out into the world FEEL like you are. Let the world catch up, let yourself SHINE. Finally, and this part saves my sanity on a constant basis- don’t put any fucking stock into this shit. Please, just don’t. Understand that it’s a necessary tool, use it to the best of your ability, but don’t let the quest for likes and attention consume your days. Do your best, make your business look good, and make sure you treat every interaction, every order, and every person you come into contact with as the most important thing you’ve ever done. It is.
On the subject of disappointment, I 100% meant what i said- get fucking used to it. That’s not doom & gloom, that’s a fact that you’re not gonna be readily told out in the world- or at least not the absolute reality of it all. Case in point- the picture below is another one from the workspace, this time of the merch/shipping shelf. We did a batch of hoodies and hats a little while ago, and we paid from it 100% out of our own pocket. It was a risk, but once I put it out there to social media it seemed like we’d sell quite a few right outta the gate so we decided to go for it.
You wanna know how much of it we’ve sold so far? Not a hell of a lot, a couple hoodies and a couple hats- that’s it. I’m not telling you this because I’m complaining, that’s not how I roll. I’m telling you this because it’s the truth. The truth is, just because people SEEM interested it doesn’t mean it’ll translate to sales in the real world. Interest isn’t a purchase, and sometimes you’re gonna stick your neck out and take a chance and it just won’t turn out like you hoped it would. Again though- don’t let it beat you down. In your journey as a business owner you’re going to run into a TON of disappointments, an unfortunate amount of them will come from people you think WON’T disappoint you too, but you gotta power through. Now we have stock for next fall if these don’t sell, and we learned a valuable lesson in the process. I’d love to have a full-on clothing line, orders pouring out of here like a river, but we’re only 3 1/2 months in- it takes time, consistency, and dedication to get there. We’re just not there yet and that’s OK, but if I gave up now cause of a few disappointments or setbacks I’d never get to see that moment when it all gels together. Like I said earlier, I live for a very small but very important set of things, and getting to see that moment for us is one of them. Don’t sweat the dumb shit like social media or how many views you’re getting or whatever the fuck- focus on learning, focus on your craft, and focus on tuning our all the fucking noise and doing your best every day. It’ll pay dividends down the road, and it shouldn’t be about how FAST this shit happens, it should be about how well you built the foundation.
3) LEARN THE UN-FUN SHIT, IT WILL SAVE YOUR ASS FOREVER.
Yet again, another one to stare at until the words osmose themselves into your hopefully-receptive brains. I love making jewelry, networking with potential clients & peers, people telling me something I made is awesome. You know what I DON’T like? IRS forms, business licenses, and phone calls with the county to discuss taxes I didn’t know existed. That shit is exponentially LESS THAN FUN but if your goal is to do this for the long haul, and to not have the authorities fucking with you every step of the way, you’re gonna need to suck it up and learn this stuff. Period. No other option. You’re probably thinking “but it’s just an Etsy shop, why does it matter?”. Well, it matters because if you make more than $400 in a given year you have to pay taxes on that shit. And if you’re paying taxes, you’re gonna need to register yourself as a business, with your county, with the state, and with the IRS. You’re gonna need to do your research, get it all set up, and make sure you keep up with it all because these are things that, if neglected, can ruin the whole shebang.
The bottom line is, quarterly taxes payments and business personal property taxes are the kind of thing that makes my skin crawl with dread, but I learned it so I wouldn’t get fucked by it- that’s it. I could spend hours diving into all this stuff but that’s not the point of this post- I’m happy to share my experience with anyone who is struggling with that stuff, or just needs a little help/advice. Shoot me an email anytime at [email protected], no worries. I went through it all pretty recently so it’s nice & fresh in my head. Whatever you do, JUST LEARN IT.
4) DO IT BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT.
Starting and running your own small business is awesome. it’s also one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in your entire life, so make sure you love whatever it is you’ve chosen to do. Love it like you love your family, love it like you love your favorite band, love it like you love the most awesome thing you’ve ever loved- cause if you don’t, everything I mentioned above will fucking break you. It’ll discourage you, it’ll frustrate you, and it’ll downright scare you. It’ll do that when you love it too, sure, but when you love it all that stuff is worth it. 100%, every day, it’s worth it.
I have absolutely NO idea what the future is gonna hold for The Ghost Generation, and for me that means possibilities, and that’s because I love it. I have no idea what it’s going to take to capture, and keep, people’s attention but every day I get another shot at figuring that out. I have no idea if we’ll “hit it big” or anything like that, but I know that we’re in a very fortunate position for me to be able to give it everything I have and see what happens. Long story short, I don’t really know much of anything, I’m no “expert”. I’m down here in the trenches just like you or anyone else trying to chase a dream, and I’m just here to share my experiences with you cause I know that a lot of this stuff just doesn’t get talked about and it SHOULD. I’m sure I could go on, and if I think of more I’ll definitely do another one of these, but the things I mentioned are the biggest ones I’ve been working through and maybe it’ll help you too. Thanks for reading, and while you’re here check out my latest creation, Aquarium Plugs!
The “Duck Plugs” I made have been a little bit of a hit so I thought I’d explore some other underwater concepts for you guys. I can do these in plugs starting at 1″ (all the way up to 2″) and I can do coasters/paperweights as well. Cute stuff is rad, so head over to the shop and click on “Request Custom Order” or DM the shop to get yours started! Thanks for reading, now go make your day RAD!
The Ghost Generation makes rad jewelry for equally rad people. Also, we write stuff occasionally. Est. August 2019.